Q. How soon after a stem cell transplant can you return to work? Will I need to take a leave of absence during the complete work up as well as transplant and average time off?
I suggest you speak to your transplant team about when you can return to work. Since your immune system is completely destroyed and then replaced, it can take anywhere from around three months from an autologous transplant, to about nine months if you have an allogeneic transplant. You may also feel a lot of fatigue and the many doctor appointments and follow ups after your transplant may make it harder to go back to work. You also may want to take into account the type of work you do. If the work is less labor intensive, you may feel well enough earlier, than if your work requires more labor intensive activities.
In terms of taking a leave of absence, you might want to speak to your Human Resources department and/or supervisor about your options. During the workup phase, you may be able to continue your work schedule, but it depends on what the workup and pre-transplant procedure is like at your transplant center. I would encourage you to get a direct answer from your health care team. During the transplant you will be hospitalized for at least a month, during that time you will not be able to go to work. You may be too fatigued to be able to work remotely. When you are ready to return (with your doctor’s permission), I would encourage you to speak to HR/your supervisor to work out a schedule to work only a few days a week before going back into a full-time schedule, as you may have to slowly reintegrate work back into your normal routine. For more guidance, I encourage you to listen to our Connect Education Workshop “Transplantation as a Treatment Option for Blood Cancers,” as it provides information about stem cell transplants that you might find useful. Cancer and Careers may also be a useful resource as well.